Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang


February 19, 2017

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

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It was obvious that bigotry was never a one-way operation, that hatred bred hatred!”

– Isaac Asimov, ‘Pebble in the Sky’

COMMENT: Readers interested in what I write should consider this a companion piece to my article describing how non-Malay Malaysians (specifically) are a tolerant lot.

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Mahathir’s First Carma (Cari Makan) Journalist–A Kadir Jasin

De facto opposition leader and former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad casually mentioned last week that he was partly to blame for the demonisation of DAP. I suppose this went together with veteran journalist A Kadir Jasin’s admission that he was part of the brainwashing that went, and goes on, in UMNO. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, but I doubt that the indoctrination of Malay youths will cease any time soon when the opposition is made up of Islamic groups determined to use Islam as a political tool.

I wrote the last part of the above paragraph after the opposition had suffered a setback in the by-election where the current UMNO grand poobah was supposed to receive a black eye but apparently, the opposition punched itself in the face. A reader had emailed and asked if the schadenfreude tasted good, especially since I had predicted the results.

I take no pleasure in any opposition defeat and neither do I take pleasure in a UMNO win. This is the bitter taste of having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Furthermore, when I say “evil”, do not get your panties in a twist because it is an expression and not a description of either political fronts. These days I cannot tell the difference between winning and losing when it comes to “saving Malaysia”.

As I have argued before, a country can recover from corruption scandals, but it rarely recovers from that type of Islam that neutralises the democratic imperative. In Malaysia, where race and religion are not mutually exclusive, the threat from Islamists is coupled with ethno-nationalism.

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The  First Malay Nationalist (or is it Racist?)

The de facto Opposition Leader is right when he says that he demonised DAP as DAP and other opposition parties had demonised him. However, the reality is that these political parties were not only demonising their political rivals, they were demonising entire communities.

So, when you want to win, and you demonise your political opponents, and by extension whole communities, the political terrain becomes a battleground for competing racial interests instead of ideological or policy ideas.

This is why I have always been sceptical of the opposition propaganda about voting across racial lines. In one of my numerous articles about race relations in this country, I wrote: “In addition, this idea that voting across racial lines as some sort of evidence of burgeoning multiracial solidarity is complete bunkum. The real test is when people vote across ethnic and religious lines in support of ideologies that run counter to the interests of their communities and by this, I mean egalitarian ideas that run afoul of constitutional sacred cows and social and religious dogma.”

While the former Prime Minister (and now de facto Opposition Leader) and the system contributed to Malay fear of DAP, the whole political system and voting patterns of Malaysians is also culpable for this sad state of affairs. UMNO succeeded because the majority of Malaysians voted for race-based parties. Racial preoccupations were the currency that sustained BN politics and still does.

The problem is that because we do not have an alternative, BN politics is the only game in town. Non-Malay oppositional voices and voters do not demand an alternative but rather that the system continues but in a more “fairer” manner.

DAP and MCA furiously battle for the Chinese vote. Meanwhile Malay-dominated so-called multicultural parties battle with UMNO and now PAS for the Malay vote. Until the former Prime Minister showed up, there was no central theme that united the Opposition.

While the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim and the late Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat discovered that populism does not necessarily mean racial or religious preoccupations when it comes to cobbling together a formidable coalition, the emergence of the former Prime Minister as the de facto opposition leader has given the current UMNO regime an opportunity to:

1) Revisit history.

2) Dredge up the financial scandals of the former Prime Minister.

3) Point out that their strategies for securing the Malay vote is based on his strategies that kept him in power for decades.

If anyone is wondering why questions of race always revolves around the Malay and Chinese dialectic, it is because… well, if you are going to ask this question, you have obviously not being paying attention.

All are participants in race game

When I argued that Malaysians were a tolerant lot, the thrust of the piece revolved around how systemic inequalities were a detriment to the non-Muslim population but I failed to emphasise how the non-Malay communities were active participants in the race game in this country.

Voting for race-based parties meant that we did not have to concern ourselves with egalitarian concepts that would have been the basis for a more democratic system. It was not that we were “immature” or “uneducated”, it was just easier to vote for a political hegemon that provided security and stability for decades but not the rights and responsibilities that are part and parcel of a functional democracy.

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UMNO’s Money Stealing Grand Poobah

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Tolerance may have been a one-way street, it was also the street where we stopped by the sidewalk and spat at the “Malays”. There is the other narrative of non-Malays engaging in subtle and overt racism, all the while supporting racial political parties that claimed inclusiveness.

The majority of us did this to ensure that our racial preoccupations were satisfied by a plutocrat class instead of demanding for an accountable and transparent government, but more importantly demanding for a principled opposition who fearlessly made their positions clear instead of championing communal causes under the guise of “multiracial/culturalism”.

The private sector was (is) dominated by Chinese polity who were perpetuating their own form of systemic inequalities and contextualising this reality as a response to the systemic inequality perpetrated by the UMNO Malay state.

While I think, there is generally “a live and let live” vibe between Malaysians, it would be a mistake to assume that this is some sort of national identity or some form of stable unity. I realise that this is political incorrect to say, but the hard truth is that while race relations have been manipulated by establishment (both UMNO and the Opposition), the reality is that there was always tensions between the various races of this country.

This is why talking about “race” in this country is such a demoralising endeavour. Appeals to emotion replace rational discourse. The fact that our constitution is compromised, the system itself is predicated on maintaining racial and religious superiority, makes any discussion about how the non-Malays react to such a system, their complicity in sustaining the system difficult to articulate.

The fault of UMNO and the Opposition is that nobody offered an alternative and Malaysians never expected anything better.

You know what the big difference is between the corruption scandals of UMNO back in the day and the one now is? The difference is that a vast majority of Malaysians kept voting UMNO-BN back then than they do now. This is a testament to not only the political strategies of Mahathir but also the apathy of the Malaysians. This of course is a boon for the Opposition because Mahathir seems to be the only person who can galvanise the opposition. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

 

Malaysia: Into the Future Together


February 5, 2017

TN50, 1Malaysia and other else, Mr. Najib–Time to Get back to Basics and Stop your Political and Racist Nonsense–Into the Future Together and embrace Rukun Negara

by Zainah Anwar@www.thestar.com.my

Make no mistake the project to create a new ideological infrastructure for Malaysia has been many years in the making. If the leaders continue to ignore this real threat or to be complicit in this for short-term political gain, and the rakyat continue to be blinded by demagogues who abuse ethnicity and religion for narrow sectarian interests, then we will end up fighting for crumbs indeed come 2050, or even earlier. —Zainah Anwar
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Najib Razak–Malaysia’s No. 1 Problem

AS we stumble into 2017 in a Malaysia and a world full of uncertainties, and a US President shooting from his hip, causing global turmoil, I am glad that there are actually two important discussions taking place now in Malaysia on the kind of country we want to live in.

One is the TN50 series of national dialogues with young people on the Malaysia they envision by 2050. The other is the effort to make Rukunegara the preamble to the Constitution. And I believe they should feed into each other.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who is leading the TN50 dialogue, rightfully said this process is not just about defining policies for national development, but importantly, also about defining our national identity.

That many politicians (led by none other than the  narcissistic Prime Minister himself) are still determined to use ethnicity and religion to not only define us, but to divide us remains a dominant leitmotif of Malaysian politics to this day.

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In his recent interview with The Star, Khairy (pic with his wife Nori Tun Abdullah Badawi) stated that one of the areas of engagement in TN50 will be the subject of “an inclusive, vibrant and open society”. This, he hopes, will lead to a discussion on values and what a Malaysian identity should be.

I hope these dialogue sessions will be a platform where diverse groups of stakeholders can get to listen to each other and think. And in this process the “I” can become a ‘We” – we, Malaysians.

Over the years, ethnic and religious polarisation has gotten from bad to worse in Malaysia. The sad thing is that much of this divisiveness is driven by desperate politicians who manufacture fears and threats in order to maintain their power and privilege, and by non-state political ideologues burning with self-righteousness about establishing an Islamic state and syariah and Malay supremacy.

Never mind if such strategies lead to the destruction of the Malaysia we know and love, and the Malaysia that our founding fathers envisioned. That vision remains valid today.

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Malaysia’s Ills–Greed, Corruption and Incompetence

I have always believed that this country is big enough, and blessed enough for us all to share. That was how the founding fathers saw it as they developed a political system and policies where political power and economic wealth of the nation could be equitably shared.

As other ethnically divided countries fell apart, Malaysia stood in stark contrast because of a fundamental belief that this country has no other path to follow for its survival and well-being, but for its people to choose to live together in peace and to share the wealth of the nation.

To continue to label the Chinese and Indians as pendatangs, to portray them as threats, to regard other religions as a threat to Islam when the Constitution is clear in recognising Islam as the religion of the Federation and for other religions to be practised in peace and harmony, is nothing but a deliberate and mischievous attempt to manufacture a new ideological infrastructure for an exclusivist Malaysia to serve the short-term interest of the privileged few.

With all the corruption scandals perpetrated by those elected and appointed to protect the supposed interests and rights of the bumiputras, it is time that we start to think beyond our own ethnic and religious boundaries.

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Sebab sSaya nak songlap duit rakyat lagi

For there are larger interests for the national well-being that can unite us. So I welcome the TN50 dialogue initiative which I hope will start a national conversation on the kind of Malaysia we aspire to by 2050. Will it buttress the recognition of Malaysia’s plurality in the 1957 Constitution or submit to the demands for an exclusive identity based on ethnicity and religion, and even then, one that embraces only a certain kind of Malays and Muslims, while others are labelled deviants?

Will we continue to see our diversity as our strength rather than a curse and a threat as these extremists portray? Do we want to live in fear or in hope?

The proponents of the initiative (I am one of them) to make the Rukunegara the Preamble to the Constitution is embarked on an effort to reinvigorate and reaffirm this national commitment and turn it, in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, into “habits of the heart”.

The objectives and principles of the Rukunegara, carefully crafted after the trauma of 1969 and launched by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on National Day in 1970, were designed to rebuild a sense of national unity and purpose – of a government and its citizens committed to building a democratic, just and progressive society with a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions.

They contain values that recognise our diversity and represent our commitment to inclusiveness, and our belief in democracy, justice, equity, and unity.

While some of us embrace these values until they become “habits of the heart”, too many others in powerful positions, in their rhetoric and actions, are determined to upend the best in the Malaysian character to refashion a new identity where those different are demonised and labelled, and therefore to be feared and excluded.

Make no mistake the project to create a new ideological infrastructure for Malaysia has been many years in the making. If the leaders continue to ignore this real threat or to be complicit in this for short-term political gain, and the rakyat continue to be blinded by demagogues who abuse ethnicity and religion for narrow sectarian interests, then we will end up fighting for crumbs indeed come 2050, or even earlier.

As expected, any effort to be inclusive, consultative, realistic in facing the challenges of today and the future, is regarded as a threat by these ethno-religious extremists.

Revitalising the Rukunegara to make it the preamble to the Constitution is damned as an effort to erode the special status of the Bumiputeras and undermine Islam as the religion of the Federation.

Dialogues to provide a platform for young people to envision the Malaysia they want by 2050 is criticised for not using Islam as its framework.

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Malaysia’s Gutsy Public  Intellectual

Such myopic attitudes reveal the intent of these supremacists to turn Malaysia into a mono-ethnic and mono-religious country or at least, one that serves the interest of only one group of citizens.

We want to move forward and embrace the values and ideals of the Rukunegara that remain relevant today, if not even more.

We want to explore new ideas and build new understandings that will keep us together and promote our collective well-being as we face the difficult and complex challenges of an uncertain new world order.

We want to stride into the future with knowledge and confidence, not with self-inflicted fear and myopia.

Scandal ridden UMNO Malay Leadership


February 3, 2017

Scandal ridden UMNO Malay Leadership

http://www.asiasentinel.com/society/malaysia-scholars-fault-umno/

Malay Scholars Find Fault in Malay Leaders

Malaysian Official No. 1–The Corrupt and Corruptor

The United Malays National Organization (UMNO) presents itself as the guardian of Malay interests, culture and language. So what do the 1MDB and other scandals say about the fundamental problems of this long-dominant ruling party, the institutional arm of the Malay elite?

The disappearance of vast sums from the accounts of the state-backed 1MDB investment vehicle, the murder of a senior investigator, the murder by the Prime Minister’s security detail of a pregnant Mongolian translator/model and former girlfriend of Najib’s close associate, must say something about elite behavior.

They may be extreme events but by no means unique in Malaysian history over the past 40 years. What were then vast sums went down similar drains, more than one associated with Bank Bumiputra, including the murder in Hong Kong of an auditor doing his job too well. Plenty of other lesser financial scandals have emerged from specifically Malay, publicly-owned institutions supposedly created to benefit the rakyat but too often ATMs for the elite. They are mostly quickly forgiven and forgotten.

Rather than looking for a contemporary or political analysis of the causes of these various scandals, it is worth casting a glance back at how some well-known Malay intellectuals in the past saw their Malay leaders. Two examples, separated by 140 years, will have to suffice.

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The more recent, written in 1982, appears in Shaharuddin B Maaruf’s Concept of a Hero in Malay Society tracing the influences on the Malay elite from the epic of Hang Tuah to the later era where feudal loyalty was allied with a crass materialism. Some of the feudal traits exhibited by Hang Tuah (and by equivalents at the Javanese Majapahit court) included feats of drinking, gambling, hunting and lovemaking. Do they still dominate?

 Interestingly Shaharuddin singled out not a Malaysian but the martyred Philippine nationalist Jose Rizal and General Sudirman, Indonesia’s military leader in the war of independence, as the wider modern Malay world’s leaders as selfless, determined and principled. In contrast, he quoted the principal agent of British imperialism on the peninsula, Frank Swettenham, on the eagerness of the Malay rulers to accept British overlordship in return for position and income.
Image result for dr shaharuddin maarufA Contemporary UMNO Leader

Shaharuddin himself echoed other post-independence critics of the elite such as Syed Hussein Alatas, the Malay academician turned politician who became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya and a founder of Gerakan, a multi-ethnic, reformist party. Alatas wrote the Foreword to Shaharuddin’s book.

They both noted the conflict between the feudal values of the elite, seen in their devotion to hierarchy, show and dynasty, and the Islam it professed. Instead of acknowledging that Islam’s strength lay in the diversity of interpretation of the Koran, it insisted on a single one laid down by an intellectually bereft elite, more interested in the furtherance of narrow Malay racial interests than in religion. Personal loyalty to a leader also trumped laws and principles.

There was, wrote Shaharuddin “no genuine interest on the part of the Malay elite to foster the intellectual, humanitarian and scientific aspects of Islam … but only to organize Koran reading competitions” – a stark contrast to the days when Islam was at the forefront of intellectual and scientific advance.

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 Present Day Malay Heroin Rosmah ‘Birkin’ Mansor

Reading about the shopping sprees of Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor, of the spending of huge sums to join the celebrity crowd in New York, mansions in California, Hollywood movies and high-priced western paintings suggests that elite behavior has got even worse since Shaharuddin wrote more than a generation ago: “The spirit of indulgence leads it [the elite] to imitate the negative aspects of western culture while the scientific and intellectual tradition is discarded… Being indulgent and imitative, the Malay elite always seeks to identify itself with its western counterpart.”

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Nor was it just a problem of aping western ways. Another was the desire to be grandiose and showy. “They spend lavishly on buildings, cars, official functions and other expenditures for prestige.”

Worse still, “celebrity worship is widespread in Malay society” – as if foretelling the elite urge to be seen in the company of such trashy western celebrities as Paris Hilton.

Shaharuddin’s criticisms were however mild compared with those of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir 1796-1854) also known as Munshi Abdullah. He was a Melaka-born translator and teacher who worked for the British, notably with Stamford Raffles at the time of the British takeover of Singapore. Abdullah was not a traitor to the Malays but one so appalled by the condition of the Malay states that he saw cooperation with the British as a way of improving the lot of the Malays through economic progress, the end of internecine conflict and the spread of education and knowledge.

An 1838 work following a visit to Kelantan, Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah ke Kelantan, had polite advice for Malay rulers. But his better known autobiographical work Hikayat Abdullah written in the 1840s was more scathing in its views of the monarchs.

“It is no light tyranny that has been exercised by the Malay rulers, apart from a few who were good. Women and children who caught their fancy have been abducted by force as though they were taking chickens, with no sort of fear of Allah and regard for his creatures. They have often murdered men whose offences in no way merited death. They have plundered the property of other men, killing the owners or dragging them off into captivity. If they owe money they refuse to pay it. They are very fond of gambling, cock-fighting, opium-eating and keeping a host of slaves. …There are many other disgraceful practices which I feel too ashamed to mention in this book. They keep young girls, sometimes more than a hundred, as concubines in the palace. They have relations with a girl once or twice then for the rest of her life she cannot marry another man…

“Was there not a time when half the world was under Malay dominion and rule? There are many books and records which tell of the rulers of olden times, how great and powerful they were, so rich and full of wisdom. Why have their lands been despoiled by Allah ere now and passed into foreign bondage.

…Even in my own time there have been several Malay principalities which have come to ruin. Some have reverted to jungle where the elephant and tiger roam, because of the cruel injustices of their rulers and chiefs; not merely distant places but, for example, Selangor, Perak, Kedah as well as Padang, Muar, Batu Pahat and Kesang and many others like them. Once they were rich and flourishing states with a large population. Now they are states only in name. …

“Many are the places and lands which have been destroyed by the depredations of the young scions of the ruling house whose rapacious hands can no longer be tolerated by the people. Other races, the English, the Indians, the Arabs, the Chinese do not conduct themselves in the manner I have described. Only the Malays. Among all the other races the ruler’s children are expected to be well educated and very intelligent… If the Malay ruler do not keep their own children under control, how can they themselves exercise authority over the people? As it is under Malay rule ordinary people cannot lift up their heads and enjoy themselves… Another failing commonly found among Malays is their inability to change or modernise their idea or to produce anything new. They utterly refuse to abandon superstitions of the past…”

And so on. Abdullah used many more pages to denounce the rulers and attitudes of the Malay rulers and state of society of his time.

There seems a continuous theme from the 1820s until today. It might be argued that both Abdullah and Alatas were not really Malays. Abdullah was of Tamil Muslim origin, Alatas of Yemeni ancestry and born in Bogor. But the notion of a pure Malay race is a fiction to which the ancestries of Prime Ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman, Hussein Onn and Mahathir Mohamed attest. No one doubted the mastery of Malay language and culture possessed by Abdullah and Alatas, nor their standing as modernist Muslims with enquiring minds. Are there any such figures in Malaysia today?

(Translation of Hikayat Abdullah by A.H. Hill. Concept of a Hero in Malay Society by Shaharuddin b. Maaruf, Eastern Universities Press, 1984)

 

Imagine a world without activists


December 28, 2016

Imagine a world without activists

by Stephen Ng@www.malaysiakini.com

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Free Riders Everywhere You Look

In the story, ‘Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, And Nobody’, the activists would not sit down believing that when “there was an important job to be done, Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.”

Since the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers apparently care little to look into a certain problem, despite being vested with the power to do so, the activists would not accept the fate that at the end of it all where Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

This is why the activists have to cause a stirring in a situation. Yes, although their frequent campaigns may make the people in the corridors of power feel uncomfortable, the activists play a very important role in parliamentary democracy.

When the activists are barking, the powerful individuals and the kleptocrats no longer enjoy the ‘peace and tranquility’ to rape the rich resources belonging to the Malaysian people. Suddenly, the people become aware of what is happening to the natural resources God has endowed on this country.

Testimony of a failed system

The system, along with the people in the corridors of power, be it the executive branch of the government or those who are tasked with a job to protect the welfare of the people and the nation, has somehow failed to deliver what it is designed to do.

The Malay proverbial saying, “Harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi” (it is disappointing when the fence is supposed to protect the padi, it ends up destroying the crop) is an apt description of our politicians today, especially on issues that do not attract votes.

This is why activists like Shariffa Sabrina, Henry Goh (Malaysia Nature Society president) and others like Clare Rewcastle-Brown (Sarawak Report) have come to the forefront to highlight issues relating to the shrinking tropical rainforests.

We have always believed that our democratic system is upheld by the executive branch of the government, the Judiciary and the Parliament; however, activists like the media are also a pillar that upholds and protects the democratic rights of the people.

Shariffa Sabrina, for example, entered into the limelight when she was arbitrarily arrested for allegedly highlighting some tropical rain forest clearing which caused degradation to the environment; her efforts have helped us become more concerned about the way our government has been managing natural resources.

In short, the activists are the checks-and-balances within the democratic system. They will not hesitate to criticise or expose a lie, if they can.

In her capacity as Peka president, Shariffa Sabrina does her work as a volunteer. Like most other activists, she has great passion for her work. It is unlikely that she would give up the cause. Despite the arrest, Shariffa Sabrina and Norhayati are adamant to continue with their campaign to stop the indiscriminate clearing of tropical rainforests.

They would not put down their spade, but continue digging and exposing the people responsible for the deforestation until a few feathers are ruffled, and good sense finally prevails.


STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.

UMNO General Assembly– A Circus of Unchecked Racism


December 15, 2016

UMNO General AssemblyA Circus of Unchecked Racism

by Dennis Ignatius

The low road to bigotry and parochialism

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Don’t be afraid of UMNO–Stand Up Against Racism and Religious Bigots. They have ruined the Malay spirit by corrupting the minds of young Malays.

Instead of using the occasion to speak to an anxious nation worried about its future or demonstrate that it has the will and the capacity to rise to greatness again, delegates took the low road to bigotry and parochialism.

Party conferences often provide an insight into the soul of a political party – its mindset, its ideas, its mood, its convictions, the quality of its leaders. For many Malaysians, the insights that the recently concluded UMNO General Assembly provided was profoundly disturbing.

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Instead of using the occasion to speak to an anxious nation worried about its future or demonstrate that it has the will and the capacity to rise to greatness again, delegates took the low road to bigotry and parochialism.

In so doing, they reminded the nation yet again that theirs is a party with no real solutions, no great ideals, no enduring principles and no inspiring leadership. 

Unchecked racism

In a nation brought up to believe in diversity and multiculturalism, even if only nominally, it was shocking to see so much unchecked racism on display.

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A Malay who has been corrupted by UMNO

One delegate, for example, fumed that a Chinese is heading a government-linked company. “GLCs belong to us, but why are we giving them (top positions) away to other races,” she asked. (Interestingly, she made no mention about the non-Malay who helms 1MDB.)

Another delegate lamented that the Transport Ministry is currently headed by a non-Malay and equated that with a loss of opportunities for Malays.

Yet another referenced Indian attacks in the 11th century, alleged Chinese collusion with the Portuguese in the 16th century, and Thai attacks in the 18thcentury to stress that Indians, Chinese and Thais should not be ungrateful for being allowed to live in Malaysia despite their earlier treachery.

And there were threats of collective punishment too. The Chinese were warned that there could be serious consequences, including the closure of Chinese schools, if they continued to reject UMNO-BN. Penangites, for their part, were cautioned that their international airport might be moved out of the state if they continued to support the opposition.

The most risible of all, however, was the claim that non-Muslims oppose hudud because they want to keep the Malay-Muslim community in a sinful state, weaken them and eventually take over the country. I wonder if that particular delegate understood the implications of his own statement – that somehow, despite the oft-repeated claim that Malaysia is already an internationally respected Islamic state, Muslims here are still “living in sin.”

Meanwhile, one fawning senior delegate went so far as to even proclaim that the party leader has been chosen by God, that he has some sort of divine mandate to rule. Coincidentally, it came on the same day that the President of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, who claimed to be God’s “preferred candidate” lost his re-election bid. Inscrutable are the ways of the Almighty indeed.

And then there was the Red shirts leader – race-baiter extraordinaire – receiving the adulations of admiring delegates. Clearly, he is a hero to the UMNO crowd despite their protestations to the contrary, and that too speaks volumes of the prevailing sentiment in UMNO.

Reckless, dangerous and injurious

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Raja Petra Kamaruddin with DAP’s Hannah Yeoh–Now an UMNO apologist

UMNO apologists would, of course, have us believe that these racist sentiments and statements were merely the ramblings of a few overly-excited members or that such rhetoric was intended only for internal consumption, to fire up the troops, to promote greater cohesion within the party.

If that was the objective, it was reckless, dangerous and deeply offensive – a sign of just how desperate they are.

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Besides, racism is racism, after all, no matter how it is packaged or practised. Any party that seeks to unite its members or seeks to justify its uniqueness or claims a special right to rule by demonizing other racial groups is a racist party that ought to be condemned by all Malaysians.

In any case, the party leadership, far from disassociating itself from the bigotry that surfaced at the assembly, appears to have set the very tone for it.

The DAP (which as Wan Saiful Wan Jan of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs pointed out, with some justification, is merely a code word for Chinese) was singled out and pilloried as anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-monarchy and anti-constitution. In addition, it was argued that if the DAP came to power, Malay institutions like MARA, FELDA, RISDA and FELCRA would be dismantled while Malay fishermen, farmers and smallholders would be abandoned.

Worse still was the highly inflammatory claim that Islam itself would be ridiculed if the DAP came to power. It was pure fearmongering and race-baiting, calculated to sow religious discord and hate.

It didn’t seem to matter much that none of the above allegations have any merit. It didn’t matter that other Malay-led parties like PKR, PAS, Amanah and Bersatu are also deeply critical of UMNO and just as determined to defeat it at the next elections. And it didn’t matter that the DAP by itself has about the same chance as a snowball in hell of taking over the country.

A national embarassment

By singling out only the DAP the way they did, UMNO leaders cast Malaysian politics as an existential struggle between Malays and Chinese. In such a scenario, there can be little room for compromise, for give and take. It promotes a zero-sum game of politics. It divides the nation into warring camps perpetually at each other’s throats. And it reinforces racial and religious bigotry as the dominant narrative.

Moreover, it scorns the many decent Malaysians of all ethnicities who cherish their diversity, who live, practice their faith and work together in peace. Unsurprisingly, many, Malays included, were simply and rightly embarrassed by what transpired at the general assembly.

Some reports also suggest that more thoughtful UMNO members were themselves disappointed at the paucity of serious policy debate and disappointed by the tone set by the party leadership.

For these reasons, UMNO’s focus on scaremongering and race-baiting might well prove to be counterproductive in the long run. By recklessly playing up racial issues, the party has lost credibility. By ignoring the critical issues facing the nation, it has drawn yet further scrutiny to its own dismal record in power.

Its up to the opposition now

After this general assembly, UMNO would be hard pressed to convince the nation that it has not turned its back on racial and religious diversity in favour of purely sectarian politics.

BN parties, already struggling to remain relevant, have also been dealt a fatal blow. Non-Malays in particular will find it difficult to trust political parties that are associated with the very party that despises and denigrates them as an existential threat, as interlopers and enemies of the faith.

Malaysia’s future as a secular multiracial democracy now rests with the leaders of PKR, DAP, Bersatu and Amanah.

If they cannot forge at this critical juncture in the life of our nation a united opposition with at least a minimal platform that respects racial and religious diversity, that upholds the constitution, that promises good governance and respect for the rights of all, then we are well and truly damned.

 

Crackdown on Freedom and Democracy in Malaysia


December 12, 2016

Crackdown on freedom and democracy in Malaysia

 68 years later, it is still celebrated in various magnitudes; its significance and meaning varies from one nation to the next but for Malaysians, the struggle to uphold justice, freedom and democracy has become more crucial than ever.
COMMENT

By Syerleena Abdul Rashid@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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Every year on 10th December, the world celebrates Human Rights Day, a day where we reflect hard-fought battles to restore democracy, freedom and justice. Human Rights Day symbolizes past, present and future struggles to make universal human rights a reality for everyone– regardless of race, gender, disability or religion.

68 years later, it is still celebrated in various magnitudes; its significance and meaning varies from one nation to the next but for Malaysians, the struggle to uphold justice, freedom and democracy has become more crucial than ever; our struggle now is a battle between oppressive forces verses liberty.

2016 has been marred with a barrage of atrocities that violates civility, human rights and basic human decency. In times of absurd revelations, defending our constitutional rights have become more significant than ever. As Malaysians, we must protect these rights and appreciate the battles fought by those who resolved to see a better vision of the world materialize.

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Prosecution and oppression of dissenting voices have spread beyond opposition politicians and activists to ordinary citizens and students. The Barisan Nasional government’s actions indicate a sickening crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly in the country – a last act of defiance born out of desperation and anxiety.

The latest victims of the tyrannical forces of those who govern from the ivory towers in Putrajaya are the four Universiti Malaya students: Anis Syafiqah Md Yusof, Muhammad Luqman Nul Haqim Zul Razali, Muhammad Luqman Hakim Mohd Fazli and Suhail Wan. All four students were recently suspended by Universiti Malaya for participating in the Tangkap MO1 rally at Dataran Merdeka, which was held earlier this year.

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Other students have also been persecuted, charged and suspended in the past – Adam Adli, Fahmi Zainol, Asheeq Ali, Safwan Shamsuddin, Khairol Najib, Haw Yu Hong, Nur Syamimi Munirah, Khairul Anwar, and Adam Wilfrid; this list will continue to grow leading up to the next general elections.

The Barisan Nasional government lead by Prime Minister Najib Razak is on a feverish witch hunt to chastise and persecute Malaysians who dare criticize the wrong doings of the present regime. Commenting on 1MDB, questioning the slapdash leadership, demanding free and fair elections, drawing cartoons and student activism have all been met with iron fist punishment. The fascist like crack down on opposing voices is a stark contradiction of what is guaranteed to us as citizens of a democratic nation.

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Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Barisan Nasional federal government have the obligation to respect human rights and protect fundamental freedoms enshrined in both international law and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. They must also be made to understand that human rights is not just about freedom from violence, unlawful detention, discrimination; it is extended to freedom to express, criticize, associate, assemble, and practice one’s religion.

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As Malaysians, we must demand that the ruling regime stop the mindless persecution of students and other dissenting voices, stop the senseless oppression and fear mongering tactics.

Prime Minister Najib Razak must be reminded that he is the Prime Minister of all Malaysians and not just the 48%, with that being said, he must reinstate democratic freedom, restore confidence in the system and provide sound solutions to alleviate us from this quagmire of socio-political despair.

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As Malaysians, it is our utmost duty to see that our rights will not be trampled by those whose lust for power overrides logic and common human decency. We must also ensure that justice is extended to other victims of tyranny, protect those who are in danger and insist that investigations are to be carried out thoroughly and justly.

We, as Malaysians, have an obligation to see that democracy and liberty prevail even in our darkest hours.

Syerleena Abdul Rashid is DAP Wanita National Assistant Publicity Secretary.